Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘physical sciences retractions’ Category

“Devastating:” Authors retract paper in Nature journal upon discovering error

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Several years ago, Chris Dames thought he had made an exciting discovery, a “secret sauce” that would allow him to design a device using a novel mechanism.

In a 2014 Nature Communications paper, Dames—who works at the University of California at Berkeley—and his team described the first experimental results for the device, a photon thermal diode. A thermal diode conducts heat in one direction but not in the other, and in theory, could have broad applications—for example, provide barriers that shield buildings from excess heat or use heat to power computers.

But two years later, in August 2016, a colleague thought he had discovered a fundamental error in the design of the experiments. Bair Budaev, who also works at the University of California at Berkeley, believed that the authors made a “a fundamental symmetry error” which invalidated their results. Read the rest of this entry »

Post-publication peer review in action: Science flags paper just days after publication

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Science has issued an expression of concern for a widely covered materials science paper published on Friday, citing issues with the supplementary data.

The paper — which caught the attention of multiple news outlets — added properties to cotton fibers in vitro, potentially enabling researchers to manufacture fabric that can fluoresce or carry magnetic properties.

The move to issue an expression of concern was unusually quick. According to the journal, an expert who received the paper from a journalist under a media embargo contacted Science to flag issues in some of the supplementary data. At the time of this post, the paper does not yet have an entry on PubPeer.

Here’s the full expression of concern:

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Chem journal cautions readers about data in three papers

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A chemistry journal has issued expressions of concern for three papers after a reader notified the editors of “unexplained discrepancies” in the data.

According to the notices, after the editors of Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry confirmed the problems, they contacted the corresponding author on the three papers, Pradeep Kumar—who works at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-National Chemical Laboratory in Pune, India—as well as the director of CSIR, Ashwini Kumar Nangia. The institution conducted its own internal review of the spectra and concluded the authors did not intentionally alter them.

Still, the journal and institution could not confirm the accuracy of the data, and the journal published expressions of concern to warn readers about the issues.

Here’s the expression of concern for “A general and concise asymmetric synthesis of sphingosine, safingol and phytosphingosines via tethered aminohydroxylation:”

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Chemistry journal issues correction longer than original paper

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A 2011 chemistry paper required corrections so extensive that the author published the changes as a second, longer paper.

Both papers, published in the Chinese Journal of Chemistry, described the synthesis of a protein molecule with potential therapeutic applications in cancer. But when the paper’s corresponding author Yikang Wu tried to continue the work, he discovered that a substantial part of the 2011 study was incorrect.

The original paper is not marked with any editor’s note, even though the new paper — which is three pages longer than the 2011 version — acknowledges it is a “partial retraction/correction of previous results.” The new paper does appear in the list of “related content” for the 2011 article.

Given the errors, in the 2017 paper, Wu and his co-authors write: Read the rest of this entry »

Curious: A paper’s acknowledgments harshly criticized Spanish gov’t funding. Now two authors object.

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In 2014, researchers condemned the Spanish Government for “destroying the R&D horizon of Spain and the future of a complete generation” in the acknowledgment section of a paper about wireless networks.

Three years later, the two last authors of the paper are protesting that protest, issuing a correction to alert readers that they did not approve the language. Here’s the text of the corrigendum notice, which mentions Juan M. Górriz and Javier Ramírez, both based at University of Granada: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

August 18th, 2017 at 8:15 am

Leibniz Prize belatedly awarded to scientist cleared of misconduct

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Just before the March ceremony to bestow the coveted Leibniz Prize, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) received some disturbing allegations. An anonymous tipster accused one of the 10 scientists slotted to receive the award, materials scientist Britta Nestler, of misconduct. So the DFG held the ceremony on March 15, but suspended Nestler’s award.

Four months later, Nestler now has her Leibniz, along with the €2.5 million in prize money. This week, the DFG — which awards the Leibniz — announced that it had given Nestler her prize on July 4, during its annual meeting, after determining the accusations were without merit.

Secretary General of the DFG and Chair of the Committee of Inquiry on Allegations of Scientific Misconduct Dorothee Dzwonnek said in a statement:

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Written by Alison McCook

July 14th, 2017 at 7:00 am

Nature Chemistry issues its first retraction

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For the first time in its eight-year history, Nature Chemistry has retracted a paper, citing “data integrity issues.”

The 2010 paper, which explored how various iron-based molecules interact with water and ethanol, was withdrawn after the authors uncovered possible duplication in two images.

According to the retraction notice, the authors could not provide the raw data to confirm their findings and could not reproduce the figures because the experimental set-up had been dismantled. The authors subsequently requested the paper be retracted because the issues undermined “our full confidence in the integrity of the study.”

Here’s the retraction notice for “Charge transfer to solvent identified using dark channel fluorescence-yield L-edge spectroscopy”: Read the rest of this entry »

Author “shocked” after top math journal retracts paper

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One of the world’s most prestigious mathematics journals has issued what appears to be its first retraction.

The Annals of Mathematics recently withdrew a 2001 paper exploring the properties of certain symmetrical spaces.

What prompted this retraction? And why did it occur 16 years after the paper was published? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

July 12th, 2017 at 8:00 am

NY court: Cornell faces being held in contempt after denying physics professor tenure (twice)

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Mukund Vengalattore

Cornell University and a high-powered dean at the school face being held in contempt of court in a case stemming from their decision to deny tenure to a physics professor.

Assistant professor Mukund Vengalattore told Retraction Watch he believes the school and the dean are violating a judge’s order instructing them to completely redo his tenure review process. Neither the university nor the dean has done any of the things the judge asked them to do, and even suspended his paycheck for the first two weeks of June, he said.

In 2014 Gretchen Ritter, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, denied Vengalattore tenure, citing a weak publication record, an inability to accept advice from colleagues, and a poor group dynamic fostered in his lab [Exhibit C in this court document]. But on appeal, a faculty panel found that the review process had been affected by sexual misconduct allegations from a former graduate student.  Vengalattore told Retraction Watch the allegations were “completely false.”

However, last year, Ritter again denied Vengalattore tenure, a decision backed by Cornell’s provost, Michael Kotlikoff. As first reported by Inside Higher Ed in May, Vengalattore then took Cornell and Ritter to court. Judge Richard Rich ruled on that case in November, finding that the alleged misconduct “tainted” the process and that the school had deviated from its established procedures in a “necessary” but “secretive” way, denying Vengalattore due process:

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Written by Andrew P. Han

June 27th, 2017 at 1:49 pm

“Searching our souls”: Authors retract paper after researcher admits to fabricating data

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Researchers at a prominent Japanese university have retracted a 2016 paper in a chemistry journal after the first author admitted to scientific misconduct.

According to the notice, Kyushu University investigated and verified that the first author had committed scientific misconduct.

We requested a copy of the misconduct report, which revealed that the researcher, Prasenjit Mahato, a postdoctoral fellow at Kyushu University who is no longer affiliated with the university, “admitted to falsifying research” in two papers on which he was first author: a highly cited 2015 paper in Nature Materials, which was retracted in 2016, as well as the 2016 paper in Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), retracted earlier this month. The university investigated and confirmed misconduct in both papers.

We covered the Nature Materials retraction last year, but at the time, the paper’s corresponding author, Nobuo Kimizuka, only told us that the “matter has been under investigation by the formal investigation panel of our University.”

According to the five-page misconduct report — which we translated from Japanese using One Hour Translation and is also available in Japanese on the university’s website — in July 2016, a member of the lab (“Faculty Member B”) began to suspect a problem after he reviewed the data with Mahato (“the defendant”): Read the rest of this entry »